Israeli high court orders release of Gaza ‘red lines’ document

Israel’s Supreme Court on Sept. 5 ordered the state to release the “red lines document” in which it purportedly established the minimum caloric intake required for the survival of residents of the Gaza Strip, as part of a policy in place until June 2010 that restricted the entrance of goods into Gaza. The document, dated January 2008, reportedly details the minimum number of grams and calories that Gaza residents would be permitted to consume, according to demographic data such as gender and age. The release date of the document has not yet been determined.

In issuing its decision, the court upheld a March 2011 Tel Aviv District Court decision ordering the document to be turned over to the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. Although the state had already turned over three other documents related to the Gaza closure policy, it had insisted on not revealing the “red lines” paper, claiming that it was a draft document addressing sensitive issues.

After examining the document, the justices found no justification for barring its release. The court accepted Gisha’s argument that because the document related to public health and safety, the law obliges the state to release it even if it is a draft.

The court also ordered the state to pay 25,000 NIS ($6,000) in court costs to Gisha—on top of the 12,000 NIS ($3,000) already paid to Gisha at the District Court level. Costs were imposed after the state was found to be obstructing Gisha’s Freedom of Information Act request first by refusing to answer and later by falsely claiming that no documents existed.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Salim Jubran berated the state for obstructing the public’s right to know, noting that: “A situation in which the state gives incorrect information to the court, even if innocently, is extremely serious, and it undermines public trust in the rule of law and in the ability of the court to review the actions of the executive branch.”

Gisha director Sari Bashi said: “The court sent a clear message to the Defense Ministry that in a democratic society, the public’s right to know must be taken seriously. Had this information come to light earlier, the policy of restricting even food items from entering Gaza might not have lasted three years.” (Gisha, Sept. 6)

  1. Israeli court upholds refusal to allow Gaza students to travel
    Israel’s Supreme Court last month upheld Israel’s refusal to allow five female students from Gaza to reach their classes in the West Bank.  In rejecting the petition submitted by the Israeli human rights group Gisha and the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan, the judges accepted the state’s position that Israel is not obligated to allow Palestinian residents of Gaza to study in the West Bank, and that it may treat them as “enemy citizens” for purposes of passage. (Gisha, Sept. 27)